Dallas Historian

Willamette Industries, Inc. - Timeline

Key Dates:

1906:

Willamette Valley Lumber Company is formed in Dallas, Oregon.

1954:

Willamette and Santiam Lumber Company establish the Western Kraft Corporation.

1967:

Merger creates Willamette Industries, Inc.

1973:

Western Kraft merges with Willamette.

1983:

Willamette reaches annual sales of more than $1 billion.

1996:

Company acquires Cavenham timberlands for $950 million and also expands overseas in Ireland.

 

Willamette Industries, Inc., was first organized in 1906 in Dallas, Oregon, as the Willamette Valley Lumber Company. The company consisted of a sawmill, a small railroad, some logging equipment, and 1,200 acres of timberland. A pair of entrepreneurs, Louis and George Gerlinger, father and son, were two of the partners in the original corporation. The Gerlinger family would retain an interest in Willamette into the 1990s when the company’s chief executive officer and president was William Swindells, grandson of George Gerlinger.

The original corporation, including timberland, mill, and equipment, had been founded with $50,000. The company grew enormously in its first 15 years. In 1920 a half-interest in the company was offered for sale for $375,000. Net assets of the company were valued at $1.5 million at that time. The original sawmill had been expanded and improved, and the Gerlingers had built a planing mill and drying kilns. The company owned more than 11,000 acres of timberland, containing more than 334 million board feet of timber.

Some of the company’s early prosperity, like that of other lumber companies in the Pacific Northwest, was due to a tremendous demand for timber following the States’ entry into World War I. The army needed spruce to build military aircraft, Pacific Northwest lumber companies were able to sell as much spruce as they could cut. Willamette benefitted, however, the company also suffered from the labor agitation same as most of the northwest lumber companies.

Oregon, Washington, and Idaho lumbermen showed strong suport of the labor union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). With much of the work force off to war and lumber production running at full capacity, many longstanding labor grievances were brought to a head in 1917. Long hours, low pay, and unhealthy working conditions were the main points of contention.

 

 

to be continued

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